Plant in orchard rows for abundant nuts, as a canopy in a forest garden, or as coppice trees for firewood, building material, and mushroom logs!
Hardy from Zone 5-8. 30-60 feet. Two trees are needed for pollination. Prefer dry to moist well-drained soils.
We often lament the loss of the American Chestnut when we’re in the woods. It was once one of the most common canopy trees in the Appalachian Forest, but a fungal disease brought them low in the early 20th century. We still see sprouts of them in the mountains. We’re sad we didn’t get to see these Redwoods of the East, but we’re grateful for Chinese Chestnut, which coevolved with the blight that wiped out their American relatives! Chinese cultivars are akin to an orchard tree, growing tall and wide with brownish-gray bark and large delicious nuts. The golden leaves light up faded landscapes in the fall. They take a while to bear fruit, but once they do they shower us with calorie-rich food for hundreds of years!
The name Castanea supposedly comes from the Romans, who called the tree after a town where it commonly grew. Chestnut has been cultivated in the Mediterranean for around 3,000 years, but Asian orchardists have grown them for nearly 6,000 years. In fact, over 300 cultivars have been selected for nut production in five major regions of Asia! China produces the most of the world’s Chestnuts. The nuts are high in carbohydrates and often boiled or roasted, but we’ve really enjoyed grinding them into flour for baking cakes, mixed in cornbread recipes, and pancakes, or using the flour as a soup thickener and sweetener! We also dry the nuts on hanging trays and eat them as they sweeten through the drying process. The wood makes sturdy fences and posts and the high tannin content lends itself to leatherworking. Leaves and bark have medicinal uses for anti-inflammation and respiratory ailments. We want to see rows of these gorgeous generous trees in orchards and pastures!
We grow our Chestnuts from seeds we’ve selected from abundant healthy trees on neighborly farms or yards.